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Knights look for balance in Virginia

With only six games under the Rutgers baseball team’s belt, it is tough to gauge what sort of balance the Scarlet Knights have between their offense, defense and pitching.

The Knights have used all week training to continue to find that balance entering their three-game series this weekend against Old Dominion (6-3).

In last weekend’s doubleheader at Jacksonville, Rutgers won both games by a margin of 16-4.

The Knights (2-4) were more productive on the mound against the Dolphins than in the four games the previous weekend against Florida International.

Quality appearances from sophomore lefthander Howie Brey and redshirt freshman righthander Kyle Driscoll led Rutgers.

Although the Knights found a good balance of hitting and pitching, the weekend did not go exactly as planned for head coach Joe Litterio, who saw something to be desired.

“We pitched real well and we swung the bats real well. Even though we got two wins there, we are still looking to see what our pitchers can do,” Litterio said. “We lost 11 innings in Jacksonville because of the rain. Those are innings that are important to us, because we have to get this young staff experience.”

One Knight who was directly affected by the subtraction of innings was redshirt freshman Kevin Baxter.

The righthander was scheduled to start the third game of the weekend series this past Sunday before it was rained out.

Although Baxter threw five innings against the Panthers in the opening weekend, he missed the chance to gain some valuable innings.

Baxter found a way to make up for lost time this week before going to Virginia to face the Monarchs.

“It was definitely frustrating I didn’t get to play on Sunday,” Baxter said. “But, I got a lot of work in on Monday, we really got after it. We threw pretty much almost a simulated game and I got to throw a lot of pitches.”

The Knights’ bats found holes in the doubleheader as they continued to hit the ball hard.

While many batted balls were finding gloves against FIU, Rutgers’ 23 hits against Jacksonville reflected the change.

The responsibility of jumpstarting the hitting has fallen on freshman outfielder Mike Carter, Rutgers’ leadoff hitter.

His .364 batting average and .417 on-base percentage reflects his role as the leadoff hitter.

“I’ve been leading off for the past four years of high school anyway, so it’s nothing new to me,” Carter said. “I like leading off because I feel comfortable there. My job is to get on base, maybe get in to scoring position and help score some runs.”

The steadiness displayed against Jacksonville, and at times against the Panthers, in all phases of the game set Rutgers up for success.

Gaining the experience on the mound will help the Knights get stability they need to be effective, according to Litterio.

“Balance is everything. It means everything,” Litterio said. “You can’t win without good pitching. They keep us in the game. We’re still going out this weekend obviously to try and win games, but gain the experience for the pitchers and get them game ready.”

For Litterio, the game plan comes down to the Knights’ identity this season, specifically their aggressiveness on offense.

Rutgers will aim to keep building on that uniqueness.

“You have to play with an attitude. You have to be defined as a team, what are you going to be?” Litterio said. “I think we have a chance to be a very aggressive team. We have great team speed and guys that can swing it. I want that to be a focal point where we will be aggressive and beat you with the bats.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.